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Engaging Communities in Fitness: A Range of Options

by ACSM June 1, 2011

One measure of the richness of any community is its diversity. Variety of geography, age, ethnicity, culture and other traits is at the heart of American life and values.

As diverse as we are, though, and as differently as we choose to live, we have much in common. Deeply rooted in our shared, human physiology, for example, is the need to move. We all benefit from physical activity and exercise. Whether in a schoolyard or a nursing home, condo or campground, in the pink of health or post-chemo, the power of exercise can help us keep healthy or recover. The research is unmistakable, but more compelling for most people is the empirical evidence - how good they feel when they get regular exercise for recreation and as part of daily living.

But, how to get everyone to understand the need to be physically active? How to ensure they have ample opportunities to exercise, and how to motivate them to do it? The answers, fortunately, are as diverse as our communities themselves. I was reminded of this on May 31, when we kicked off the second World Congress on Exercise is Medicine with a community walk in Denver. Everyone - from schoolkids to the Senator to the "Biggest Loser" star - had a great time, and finished the walk just a bit healthier than before.

Just move!

At heart, physical activity is about movement. As two-legged creatures, we are made to walk. The setting may be a mall, trail, sidewalk or office park. No gym membership or special equipment needed; shoes are optional but recommended. The pace may be slower in the retirement home than the high school, but the benefits are just as real. Accumulating daily steps toward the Federal Physical Activity Guidelines is a big contribution toward better health for all. We should share the Guidelines widely and help people find ways to meet them.

But, walking isn't everyone's cup of tea, and it isn't enough for some. Communities with plenty of parks and playgrounds, sports leagues for all and safe, walkable neighborhoods have a leg up and tend to measure better on the ACSM American Fitness Index.

The "Law and Order" Principle

Crime shows tell us the perpetrator needs motive, means and opportunity. Same for exercise: We need to tell our diverse communities why they should be physically active; provide a variety of ways for them to enjoy activity, and help them fit it into daily life. If a personal trainer is too costly, let's offer free or low-cost classes at community centers. When it's too cold to jog, open a skating rink. Those who aren't up to running the mini-marathon can do the 5K family walk.

When the community's health is a priority, people find ways to encourage healthy lifestyles. The challenge is for each of us - government, businesses, nonprofits and community groups of every stripe - to find what works for us and then make it happen.

What can you do to foster active lifestyles in your community?


6/1/2011 1:53:22 PM #

This is a great blog posting. I've been focused on getting my family more active the last few months. Motivating and educating them about the relationship between daily physical activity and health is a challenge. Different communities have specific needs, and I'm committed to finding ways to make exercise more appealing by tailoring it to each group. This is one of the reasons why I started a women's walk in my neighborhood for National Women's Health Week, and I hope to make it a regular event.

Maria Sipin United States |

6/2/2011 7:24:23 PM #

In looking at the health of an individual from a nursing perspective, we always must examine a person's community and background in order to develop interventions that are appropriate for their lifestyle. This is why assessing a client's community is such an important factor when trying to devise a plan for how they can increase their physical activity. This article contains many good suggestions about recreational activities that can be provided and promoted in the community setting to get more people involved in exercise. When thinking of ways to implement these activities into a community we must always remember to look at the accessibility, availability, and the acceptability of these programs for the community. After you look at those key factors, you are then able to establish an individual community plan based on the findings. And hopefully, the outcomes of the plan will be met and the community, at large, will become more physically active.

Brianna United States |

7/6/2011 12:58:00 AM #

I've been trying to help communities get healthier for a few years, and last summer I asked my son what he felt was the key to getting kids to get more exercise.  He said the key was to make it fun.  Kids want to play, not exercise.  So, I asked what was the most fun thing he did that was a lot of exercise.  He said, "Playing Ultimate Challenge kits."  In the conversation that followed, I discovered what I think is an exceptionally-good option that communities can use to really get kids moving--without a big investment.  Search for "Ultimate Challenge Kits" to learn more about communities and groups that are embracing this fun activity.

Bill Barberg United States |

10/25/2011 1:06:04 AM #

I remember when i was a kid. I really enjoy together with my neighbors for doing a sports game and what we called "Larong Lahi" from Philippines. And I think that was my most remarkable and fitness lifestyle.

Well, all i can do to foster our active lifestyle in community: for bringing an event to participate and to educate our neighbors about health.

Robert Mitchell United States |

10/25/2011 1:22:13 AM #

Gather all your neighbors to create an organization or association that may use for fitness programs.  We can also create a summer camp, dance competition, and martial arts activities for a better mental and physical conditions. ^_^

Julio United States |

12/31/2011 10:44:27 AM #

Very nice (Link Removed) (Link Removed) blog..Thanks for sharing

Nick United Kingdom |

1/6/2012 8:49:20 AM #

Just move! is a great slogan. I once read someone saying "Being idle is pursuit for rest, and absolute rest is death" . I need to keep this in mind. Every time one is too lazy to stand up and have a jog, a walk or a simple workout at home one should remember about this. Now matter how community cares, it's the person's responsibility to take care of him or herself. Unless we understand it, much effort will be in vain. About 40 million people take statins, in spite of this: (Link Removed) , although the problem could be solved without such measures if people were just a little bit more educated.

Lisa United States |

1/11/2012 1:42:40 PM #

This blog was good, they gave very good suggestions. Being healthy by exercising  and eatin good is a better way to live.

KNS United States |

11/11/2012 2:24:08 PM #

I am totally agree with this article , I've started to take a walks around  3 years ago and I can say that my life is changed now . I can control my weight plus it's really fun to walk , so i can advise that to everyone .

Tim Banks Netherlands |

3/16/2013 6:59:43 PM #

Walks is the great way to start a exercise.

Ronin Athletics United States |

3/18/2013 12:38:55 PM #

I don't know that there is commonality in motivation, or access for all forms of exercise. But there is commonality in access to at least one form, as noted, walking is an excellent start for those who have forgotten to keep moving. And it is universally accessible. As a student of (Link Removed) (Link Removed) arts</a>, I tend to enjoy more intense forms of exercise, but not everyone wants to be that physical. I think the author has a good intention, but I don't think that government can provide the motivation, and shouldn't have to be much involved in access, as my first point illustrates, basic forms of exercise are already universally available.

Ronin Atletics United States |

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